Developer’s insight on what it takes to bring retailers to the Tri-Cities


BRISTOL, TN (WJHL)- In just the past week, it was discovered that two major retailers could be coming to Johnson City, and that has prompted discussion about what other stores may be missing from the local retail landscape.

Both Hobby Lobby and At Home are expected to take on part of the retail space available in the old Kmart building near Interstate 26 in Johnson City.

Since that announcement, News Channel 11 viewers have been wondering about other retailers, like Trader Joes and Costco, wanting to know if businesses like that will ever call the Tri-Cities home.

Steve Johnson, the developer behind The Pinnacle retail site in Bristol, TN, said Thursday he thinks it will be difficult to convince those stores to locate here.

“It’s all about population, household income, and labor…I mean everybody wants a Costco but the odds of that happening are very slim, everybody wants a Trader Joes, everybody maybe wants a Macy’s, but you know those things just aren’t going to happen,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said one main factor in convincing other major national retailers to come to Northeast Tennessee lies in first convincing industries with high-paying jobs to come.

“I mean we need corporations willing to locate here that pay more,” he said.

There are also sites around the region that are still ready for development, like Tri-Cities Crossing that sits at the intersection of interstates 26 and 81.

In November 2017 News Channel 11 reported that a Chantz Scott Kia dealership had plans to locate on that site, and before that in February 2017 it was reported that Rick Hill planned to relocate his dealerships from Stone Drive in Kingsport to the Tri-Cities Crossing. 

In Johnson City there’s been a sign indicating that Publix has plans to locate a store at the corner of West Market Street and North State of Franklin Road. 

In Kingsport, the old Sears building was demolished this fall to make way for the possibility of new tenants.

 “It’s very difficult to get some of the retailers some of the people in the region want it’s just an impossibility from a demographic standpoint, there’s just not the money or the population to support it, so there is room to get better but how much head room is there, really is challenging,” Johnson said. 

Thursday afternoon News Channel 11 reached out to Mountcastle Corporation to get an update on the Tri-Cities Crossing development, and are still waiting to hear back.

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